In a recent webinar on meeting 21st-century parent’s expectations, we were joined by Melissa McLauchlan, Treina Gautreau, and Michelle Evans from Grimsby Co-Operative Preschool, for a panel discussion on staying current with parents changing expectations in childcare. This panel of a director, an educator, and a parent offered diverse perspectives on the changing landscape in the child care industry. We got to hear what directors are noticing, the changes in the classrooms that educators are experiencing, and what today’s parents are looking for when they seek out childcare.
Anyone in the childcare industry knows how important parent satisfaction is. Parents are the ones who decide on the care plan for their child, and referrals matter! Satisfied parents will spread the word about your center and likely drive up enrollment. On the other hand, parents who are not satisfied can tarnish your center’s reputation in the same way.
The 21st-century parent experience
21st-century parents have access to a surplus of information about a childcare center: reviews, social media posts, directories, etc. This means they can do a lot of research before they even step inside your door! The easiest way to stay on top of this increased means of visibility into your program is to ensure you have ambassadors in your current parents. The more they value the hard work you put in, the more likely they are to spread the word within the community and online.
As you prepare for the back-to-school season, ensure you are doing everything you can to meet the needs of your parent base.
Managing your time as a childcare professional
Melissa McLauchlan, Director of Grimsby Co-Operative Preschool, relies on the support of HiMama to meet her parent’s expectations. Prior to COVID, she had everyone on paper, but during COVID she really wanted to transition to contactless reports and payments. They saw a rise in demand from parents wanting digital communication and answered their requests! By launching the HiMama app, everything got easier for her team in communicating with families.
We wanted to bring the program and the communication up to the year 2021 and knew parents did not want to write checks anymore. It costs them money, and that was frustrating for parents, especially in a COVID world.”Melissa
As a director, this transition also saved Melissa countless hours of admin time that she could instead devote to answering parent questions and concerns.
How educators can support parents and children
Educators are finding that with parents more in tune with the importance of early learning today, they want to be more involved in the day-to-day milestones their child is experiencing. The trick is being able to share detailed, consistent information about children quickly and easily.
Treina Gautreau is an educator who experienced the switch to HiMama and saw an increase in her center’s ability to meet parent needs. She loves the tool because it puts all of the families’ information in one spot. That makes it a lot easier to balance monitoring the children while still documenting everything.
The more updates through pictures and daily reports a parent receives throughout the day, the more comfortable they will feel. Parents having a direct line of communication with their child’s educator opens up the door for strengthening their relationship. Plus, being able to communicate digitally allows educators to send parents updates as soon as they come to mind or even after pick-up if they remember later in the day!
From a parent’s perspective
Today’s parents are done with paper: they’d rather fill out a form on their phone or tablet than use a pen on anything they have to physically bring home from a cubby. They are very, very busy. When trying to keep track of information and communication coming in from different sources, including their childcare provider, things can get missed. That’s part of the reason it’s critical that they trust you and feel safe when they drop their child off every morning.
For Michelle Evans, a parent at Grimsby Co-Operative Preschool, receiving updates through a center management application is very comforting. Seeing pictures of her kids playing through the day means a lot since she can be reassured that they are safe. Having these updates accessible to all parents/caregivers also helps keep everyone in the loop. Michelle also appreciates being able to pay her fees through the platform as part of her paperless life and not having to remember to process a payment each month.
Supporting parents with billing and payments
21st-century parents pay almost 100% of their bills online and most are eager to move away from cash and cheque payments. Most 21st-century parents much prefer digital payment methods. It is easier for them to manage when it is automatic, and one less thing for them to remember! As well, being able to pay bills on the go is very accessible!
I don’t even want to look at another check.”Michelle Evans, parent at Grimsby Co-Operative Preschool
As well, if you have to have conversations around billing with parents, having digital invoices saved all in one place makes these conversations easier, more transparent and promotes the ability to be on the same page quickly.
Staying current with parent needs
Encourage family involvement by hosting events and activities for caregivers to attend with their children and educators. When a parent comes to you with feedback, ensure you actively listen and respond. Parents, just like their children, need to feel heard, understood and accepted.
The most important piece to this puzzle is digital communication. When you can make parents feel in the loop even though they are not physically there, it will go a long way in ensuring that they are satisfied with your center. The best thing you can do for today’s parents of young children is to bring them into the conversation and ask what they need to have the best experience at your center.